One film, two versions: Funny Games

In 1997, I watched a disturbing European thriller, called ‘Funny Games’. Made by Austrian film maker Michael Haneke, (director of ‘Cache’, ‘Amour’, ‘Benny’s Video’ and ‘The White Ribbon’) it came with his reputation for making uncomfortable films, and some dire warnings from critical reviews too. Nonetheless, I wanted to see it, so I did. It stars the late Ulrich Muhe, who later gave such a superb performance in ‘The Lives Of Others’.

The story starts with a typical well-off family; wife, husband, young son, and family dog arriving at a lakeside holiday home. They meet their next door neighbour, who is accompanied by two smart and respectful young men. Later, the two young men arrive at the holidaymakers’ house, asking to borrow some eggs. But their behaviour is unsettling to the lady, especially when they contrive to break the telephone, insisting it was an accident. When they refuse to leave, she asks her mild-mannered husband to make them get out. But they break his leg, using one of his golf clubs. One of the young men constantly breaks the cinematic ‘fourth wall’, by looking at the audience and asking them questions. It is an unsettling ‘trick’ indeed, that involves us in the events playing out before our eyes.

The film then turns increasingly nasty. The men hold the family hostage, revealing that they have killed the family dog, Rolfi. They want them to participate in cruel ‘games’, and bet them that they won’t be alive by 9 am the following day. With no spoilers, all I can say is that things do not end well, as you might have already imagined. As a viewer, I was left wondering what the film was trying to say, if anything, though I later read that Haneke considered it to be an attack on media tolerance of our violent society. It is a well-made and thought-provoking film, but one that leaves you worried that you watched it at all.

Ten years later, Haneke remade the film himself. He used the same house as the set, and replicated the original film scene-by-scene, with no detail or script changes. But this time it was set in America, starred British actor Tim Roth as the unfortunate father, and Naomi Watts as his wife. I was intrigued. I mean, why bother? The same film, same sets, no changes other than location, actors, and choice of language. So I went to see it. As promised, it was identical, though more familiarity with some cast members, and the absence of the original’s German language, lost this remake the chilling European feel of the 1997 film. I would have to ask Haneke why he bothered, I know.
But I don’t have his number.

Significant Songs (18)

Heroes.

In 1997, Roni Size & Reprazent won the Mercury Music Prize, for their first album, ‘New Forms’. I had long been a fan of drum and bass, despite my age, and had sought it out all over. I now had the chance to discover this new music scene from Bristol, where the young Roni Size, a DJ and producer, was fusing Jazz with drum and bass, to introduce a totally new sound. That sound was a revelation. String bass, allied to sampling, percussion, and added vocals. It was the freshest thing that I had heard in years.

Although he never repeated this initial success, he continued to perform with the band until 2009, and is still involved in projects to this day. He may never have achieved the recognition he deserved, but for me, he took this area of music to new levels, and will never be bettered. I have chosen the most accessible track from his album, for ease of listening. But if you are remotely interested, I would urge you to explore the rest of his catalogue.

Significant Songs (6)

Don’t Speak

In the previous post in this category, I wrote about a significant song that makes me happy, and has romantic connotations for me. In the comments, Jude mentioned that many songs can have the reverse effect, and remind you of break-ups, and bring sad memories. She is correct of course, and I agree that these songs can be far more profound than the romantic type, as they bring back feelings and recollections that you would sooner not experience, as opposed to those that you openly seek, or welcome. They also have a tendency to catch you unawares, heard on car radios, played in bars, or drifting out of a neighbour’s window. You are unlikely to ever seek them out, and you will avoid compilations that contain them, and will definitely not play any copy you might still own.

I have been lucky in this respect. Despite two divorces, and many other break-ups over the years, I have never really associated any particular song with any single event of that nature. I consider this a lucky escape, as so much music played and enjoyed over time, can definitely be ruined by any untoward connection with unfortunate times, or acrimonious separations. There is an exception to this, though the song had less of an effect on me, it had a huge impact on my ex-wife. In 1996, the band No Doubt, fronted by singer Gwen Steffani, released the single ‘Don’t Speak’, a track which had appeared on their album, the year before. I liked this rather sad love song, written about the singer’s break-up with another band member, and bought a copy on CD single. It has some nice guitar, and very meaningful lyrics, which did not really concern me much at the time, as I just liked the powerful vocals, and the overall production.

In 1997, I had been married, for the second time, for eight years. I was forty-five years old that March, and a combination of dissatisfaction in my life, and what is probably best described as a ‘male mid-life crisis’, led me to the conclusion that I did not want to stay in the marriage. I broke the news to my wife, who was very shocked, unhappy, and reluctant to end it. She wanted to try a bit longer, and asked me to reconsider. I had set my mind though, and rightly or wrongly, went ahead. The house was sold, and I moved into a small flat, across the other side of London. As there was nobody else involved, and neither of us had done anything awful, we stayed friends. Even to this day, we are still in touch. I went to visit her, in her new flat in the South London suburbs. She had coped well enough on the surface, and was getting on with her life. However, she did confess that she often played ‘sad songs’, and this one in particular. It was only then, that I realised what my determination to move on in my life, had cost her.

I can never hear this song again, without thinking of her, sad and alone in that flat. I am happy to say that she has since re-married, and has a pleasant life in the west of England. Here are the lyrics, as well as a clip of the band performing the song.

“Don’t Speak”

You and me
We used to be together
Everyday together always
I really feel
That I’m losing my best friend
I can’t believe
This could be the end
It looks as though you’re letting go
And if it’s real
Well I don’t want to knowDon’t speak
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me cause it hurts
Don’t speak
I know what you’re thinking
I don’t need your reasons
Don’t tell me cause it hurts

Our memories
Well, they can be inviting
But some are altogether
Mighty frightening
As we die, both you and I
With my head in my hands
I sit and cry

Don’t speak
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me cause it hurts (no, no, no)
Don’t speak
I know what you’re thinking
I don’t need your reasons
Don’t tell me cause it hurts

It’s all ending
I gotta stop pretending who we are…
You and me I can see us dying…are we?

Don’t speak
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me cause it hurts (no, no, no)
Don’t speak
I know what you’re thinking
I don’t need your reasons
Don’t tell me cause it hurts
Don’t tell me cause it hurts!
I know what you’re saying
So please stop explaining

Don’t speak,
don’t speak,
don’t speak,
oh I know what you’re thinking
And I don’t need your reasons
I know you’re good,
I know you’re good,
I know you’re real good
Oh, la la la la la la La la la la la la
Don’t, Don’t, uh-huh Hush, hush darlin’
Hush, hush darlin’ Hush, hush
don’t tell me tell me cause it hurts
Hush, hush darlin’ Hush, hush darlin’
Hush, hush don’t tell me tell me cause it hurts